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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Are You Sexually Attracted to Male Musk Deer?

The other day I had to get up and move to new seat on the subway. The cause of my discomfort was a young woman who reeked of musk—the scent that male musk deer (Moschus moschiferus) use to attract females. I don't know why this woman wanted attention from female musk deer but I was pretty sure she wasn't going to find any on the subway.

The main scent is due to muscone [see Monday's Molecule #127] and nowadays the muscone used in perfumes is completely artificial. But that wasn't always the case. Musk originally came from the scent glands of Asian musk deer [MUSK An Essay].
Only the mature male Moschus produces musk. The substance occurs in only one location on the deer's body: on its abdomen, just in front of its penis, is a hairy pouch known as the musk gland. This sac is about the size of a golf ball. It is composed of several layers of skin, with two openings immediately above the animal's urethra.

In the early summer, unripe liquid musk drains into the gland from the surrounding tissues, and is stored there for some weeks or months. During the course of this time, the musk - 30 grams of it or so - "matures" into a granular, waxy, reddish-brown substance with an extremely potent and familiar smell.

When the musk has ripened - shortly before the autumn rutting season - the deer begin to discharge it mixed with their urine, apparently to mark their territory and attract females. (This behavior is familiar to anyone who has come in contact with a tomcat that "sprays.") Even in winter, male musk deer have been reported to leave behind fragrant red snow, rather than yellow.
I'm told that humans of both sexes get turned on by this smell. If so, the woman on the subway is not only going to attract female musk deer but she's also going to get a lot of attention from both men and women of a different species. I guess it's a good thing that I freed up the seat next to her.

There ought to be rules about perfume, When a man or a woman is wearing too much, they should be told to go home and take a shower—with lots of unscented soap.


  1. Fully agree, I find perfumes to be irritating. Not that I like sweaty stinks any better, but what's wrong with just soap and water folks? Too many people have been coerced into using it because it's a huge business, it's time to start treating perfumes and other cosmetics like we treat tobacco.

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  3. "There ought to be rules about perfume. . ."

    There are rules or at least one rule/policy. Many public and private workplaces have a scent-free policy banning the use of perfume. cologne, aftershave and other scented products. This includes scented shampoo, conditioner and shower gel. You may have seen signs similar to this one in your workplace or in public places:

  4. Anti-perfume sentiments are entertaining in their manic passion. I like many perfumes and believe that most people agree.
    If you have a negative reaction, you can always move to the mountains. As has been stated elsewhere, it's a case of natural selection at work.

  5. Anonymous said

    "As has been stated elsewhere, it's a case of natural selection at work."

    Please advise source for fragrance being "a case of natural selection at work."

  6. He wasn't referring to fragrance, but to people who have anomalous physical or psychological reactions to perfume as a case of natural selection at work.

    I did not want to take credit for someone else's statement. He was responding to rabid anti-perfume sentiments expressed at another site. My apologies for the confusion.

  7. Has anyone actually properly demonstrated that these smells increase sexual attraction (in humans)? There are a lot of smells I like, but definitely not in that way.

    I can't help but think it's a bunch of b.s.

  8. I can't help but think it's a bunch of b.s.

    I sometimes think that b.s. smells better. When I smell that it means I'm out in the country away from the smog.

  9. Don't think aphrodisiacs + sex pheromones conclusive for humans just yet, but believe will be since known w. plants, animals, insects.
    If you feel more alluring w. spritz of cologne, then perhaps you are to some. If ever scientifically demonstrated sexual attraction hike w. perfume use, then probably mild.

  10. There was a study about MCH+Perfume effects in mate selection in humans. I've got a reprint of it somewhere, though where god alone knows.

    My problem is that I'm generally allergic to perfumes. If people go too crazy with them, I have a hard time breathing. So I would support Larry's Law. :)

  11. Wouldn't mind seeing that study, TwoYaks. Did a cursory hunt on the Net to no avail. Don't tear your place apart - I'll hunt it down.
    Guess your allergy means that perfumes won't work their seductive magic on you! Once worked w. a girl who was allergic to peanut butter, shellfish, celery, and a host of other offenders. We're talking anaphylactic shock or something like.

  12. Anon:

    Evidence for MHC-correlated perfume preferences in humans

    Manfred Milinski and Claus Wedekind

    There's been some other papers since then, if you Web of Science it.

  13. "Are You Sexually Attracted to Male Musk Deer?"

    That's rather a personal question, isn't it?
    I mean, not that there's anything wrong with it...

  14. does any body know if there is a specific gene for musk? and if so is it possible to incorporate the gene into a bacteria E-Coli for example to produce natural musk? this was possible with insulin!

  15. Why you express yourself in such a fascist? People have to go home and wash with unscented soap for you? You need to be more tolerant.